I have posted these articles from Colin MacGregor taken from the Action Forum of December 1996 and January 1997. Hope they bring back many fond memories for readers of this site.
This article is taken from the Action Forum December 1996 Number 307. Part 2 is available here
Memories of Rainham
Reading the letters and articles on bygone Rainham caused me to reflect on my own childhood in the fifties. Although I am talking only 35-40 years ago it was indeed a very different Rainham. I was brought up in Quinnell Street and most of my friends were children from that area together with Brown and Holding Street. Many of these friends still live in the Rainham or surrounding areas now with families of their own. Most will recall the long hot summer holidays (they always seemed that way) spent playing at the Chalk Pit in Berengrave Lane (now the Nature Reserve) or by the river at Motney Hill where most of us learnt to swim ( holiday by the sea or even a day trip to Margate was a rare occurrence for most of us).
We will all remember such as ‘The House of Many Windows’ (a tall structure in the old Cement Works at Motney by the silos), ‘Gunpowder Island’ (in the Chalk Pit) and many more. These nicknames passed on through generations of children. We used to catch newts and tadpoles every year in the ‘Boola’ (the water in the Chalk Pit). We would walk to these places passing old Nellie Hunter’s little shop in Berengrave Lane. She would have rows of jars full of sweets such as Humbugs, Cough Candy, Pear Drops, etc. You could buy them by the ounce and she would weigh them on her brass scales. I won’t mention the childhood pranks that we would play on dear Nellie, but those who participated will well remember. We would go scrumping in the surrounding orchards for apples, pears, cherries, plums, etc. sadly many of the orchards no longer exist. Other favourite play areas were ‘The Den & Woods’ (now Parkwood Housing Estate), ‘The Darland Banks’ (which thankfully still exist), the banks at the top of Berengrave Lane and Rainham Cricket Field. Games such as Rounders, Hop Scotch, Chase Around the Houses. And then of course were our ‘Seasons’ – not the Spring and summer type – but things like the Barrow Season when tens of soap boxes would be seen trundling up and down our road. (Indeed a pair of pram or pushchair wheels on an axle were a valuable commodity in those days).
Then we had the Marble Season, the Bow and Arrow Season, the Conker Season. I remember a certain tree opposite Nellie Hunter’s shop being stripped of conkers every September. The conkers would be soaked in vinegar or baked in the oven – anything to try to harden them. Some of them would go on to become forty-niners or even higher! Sometime in October we would make ‘Guys’ to be burnt on the bonfire on November the 5th. Rainham High Street would be full of children (myself included) ‘Penny for the Guying’. I can remember building massive bonfires on the land behind Brown Street which is now Northumberland Avenue. (Sometimes these would be mysteriously lit well before bonfire night). Many of the families in the area would have their own bonfires and fireworks. Penny Bangers, Jumping Jacks, Roman Candles, Rockets and many more. Guy Fawkes Night was a night we truly looked forward to. Most weekends there would be a football or cricket match on the Playing Field behind Quinnell Street. Some of these games would be up to twenty a side. I’ll always remember the tireless Mr Veral who would come out and referee the games and teach us the rules. Sadly the Playing Field now is only half of what it was, as to what I consider to be the ugliest building in Rainham (the Telephone Exchange) has been built on our beloved football pitch. I often wonder if Planning Permission would have been granted had this not been a Council Estate (as it was in those days).